The New American Racism, Blacks and Now Muslims

By Ray Hanania

December 17, 2015 6 min read

Muslims have become the national focus in the race for presidency in the United States. They have been singled out as a major threat to American security. Not just some, but all Muslims.

But there are two very different types of Muslim bashing in America, today.

One type is the unrestrained assault on Muslims, exemplified by the comments of two of the leading Republican contenders for presidency.

Donald Trump, whom polls show is the most popular among Republican voters, has called for a total ban on allowing Muslims to enter the country.

Trump's proposal stole the spotlight from one of his closest rivals, Dr. Ben Carson, who said a Muslim should not become president of the United States.

But there is another kind of anti-Muslim hate in America. It's one that is a little more sophisticated and reflects the way Americans have come to balance out their inherently racist feelings, replacing open racism with closet racism in a "polite society."

Today's Americans are no less racist than Americans in the 1950s, when blacks were lynched or assassinated, like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Most Americans today are "sophisticated" in their racism. They lock their feelings behind closed doors and among close friends.

White people have figured out how to live with these feelings at arms length in a new form of blurred segregation, where there is some overlap, but not much. They allow a few black families to move into white neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, not long ago, whole populations of white people would rather flee their homes than have a black person live next door.

They allow some blacks to enter their boardrooms and their politics. They have elected them into the highest offices; from mayors like Harold Washington to the president, Barack Obama.

Give blacks a national holiday and just make it a day off from work.

Race drives our politics. But the Republican Party, which gave America Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery in the 1860s, also gave us the man who assassinated Lincoln and the movement that attempted to prevent civil rights.

Racists have figured out new ways to express their racism.

Americans have applied their ways of dealing with black people to Muslims. That is why there is debate among Republican Party leaders over the Muslim problem.

Imagine proposing a ban on Jews entering this country. Well, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield did, and she has been roundly attacked as being anti-Semitic.

Trump and Carson are the extreme remnants of blunt politics, which rejects being politically correct.

But most Americans still care about how they are perceived. Vanity drives the way America deals with race and civil rights.

Ironically, most Muslims are conservative Republicans.

Muslims, like most mainstream American Christians, see the role of women to be found in the kitchen, raising children and not working. Like Christians, religion is a sacred foundation of their lives. They openly oppose abortion and gay rights. The parallels are endless.

Muslims have even quieted their criticism of Israel's brutality against Palestinians, because most Muslims are not Arab. That's why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Trump, who had planned to visit Israel. Netanyahu has enough problems on his hands, let alone welcoming someone who doesn't know how to conceal their racism.

About 7 million Americans are Muslim, and 4.5 million are Arab. Those numbers are deceiving, however. The majority of the 4.5 million American Arabs, about 65 percent, are Christian. Of the 7 million American Muslims, 78 percent are non-Arab (black, Asian, Pakistani, Indian, Bosnian and more).

Many non-Arab Muslims resent Arabs because of the way the Quran is taught. The only way to read the Quran, which can be compared to the Christian Bible, is in Arabic. The only way to pray is in Arabic. The only place to pay homage to the tenets of Islam is during the Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Many non-Arab Muslims are forced to learn two languages — their own and Arabic — to worship.

Trump is both a problem and a solution for mainstream racism.

Mainstream racists use Trump's presence to make themselves appear less racist.

Because so many non-Arab Muslims are conservative members of the Republican Party, it causes some dismay.

Ted Cruz is a good example of this dilemma. He recently attacked a conference of Christian Arabs for criticizing Israel, but he has distanced himself from Trump's attack against Muslims, because non-Arab Muslims are not critics of Israel.

If Americans can find a way to continue to oppress black people while keeping them in their neighborhoods without being called racist, they can do the same to Muslims, without banning them from entering the United States.

Come in Muslims. "Ahlan wasahlan!" ("Welcome," in Arabic). Welcome to America. But don't expect to get equal treatment in our society, schools, business, foreign policy decisions and government.

Be nice and quiet, Muslims, and you will be OK.

Complain too much, and we'll label you radical Islamic terrorists.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, and writer at Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

Photo credit: thierry ehrmann

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